It's one of those concepts you hear about and can intellectually understand right away.
Be we all know there is a difference between mentally grasping an idea and truly experiencing that event on a more sensory level.
It's like when you tell a newcomer to SF that Zuni has the best roast chicken in the world and that they should order it. They look at you with sadness, like oh the poor girl thinks chicken is that exciting. Then you see them after the meal, and they did order the chicken after all. Their eyes have a messianic gleam. They are already planning their next trip back to SF, just to taste that chicken.
Amidst all the posturing and educating and tasting that is going on now about natural wines, you will sometimes hear people talk about how the wines are alive.
At first I took this as just more hyperbole, to which I am accustomed since I work in wine sales.
I have arrived at natural wines ( and the journey is continuing everyday) as a wine lover and a wine professional because I am seeking real wine made with passion and forethought.
Yes, it is important to me that the grapes are grown without toxic chemicals.
Why? Well that's how I buy my fruits and veggies too. Not that I am truly afraid that toxic residue has made it into the wine. But more that I don't want to support practices that cause our waterways and our people (vineyard workers, etc) to be poisoned. Seems logical. Seems very possible to achieve with careful, thoughtful farming practices.
These grapes that were grown with intelligence and love are now taken into the cellar and nothing is added! No cultivated yeasts (which can significantly alter the flavor profile of a wine, almost wiping out any sense of place), no acids, no sugar, no de-alcoholization, no micro-oxygenation, and minimal amounts of sulfur.
And yes the resulting wines have a delicacy that I crave now. They are full of elegant fruits, fine acids, and they are slightly lighter in style and alcohol levels.
These are generous and food friendly wines.
But here is the magic part. These are living wines. You feel a true vibrancy emanating from these wines. It is the difference between eating a potato chip and eating a freshly dug up new potato, just boiled and with a drop of butter.
I think Savio Soares is the first person who got that message through to me. But only because he said it as I was tasting one of the wines he imports, the Phillippe Bornard Cots de Jura Savignin 2005. An epiphany wine that still has me smiling now. Unexpected and complex and alive. Nuts, honey, salty, quince.
If you want to EXPERIENCE what I am writing about then seek out these people and the wines they sell:
Savio Soares Selections
Jenny & Francois Selections
Terroir SF San Francisco
Lou's on Vine Los Angeles
Pourtal Wine Bar Santa Monica
Ten Bells NYC